Previous Page
Urban Velo
Next Page

iately placed on our shelves so clients could select the items that best suited their lifestyle and the needs of their families.”

Some manifests are composed of strictly requested items, dry goods, or the full roster of ingredients to make a turkey dinner with all the fixings. Pies and baked goods are often special treats for the people who are served by the organizations, and make for a tricky bonus item for cyclists to carry with care. Heavy items like turkeys and bags of potatoes at distant locations offer an additional challenge in some cities, and encourage some to bring their cargo bikes out for the affair.

”Sometimes we put stuff that’s not on the list, because a lot of these kids want to have something really fun, you know, something good,” Lopez said. “So we’ll throw in those things as bonus points. We go off the list, but then we also add some other stuff too, so there’s a variety of food.”

The flavor and feel changes from place to place—you might be riding in the daytime on the weekend in below freezing weather, or on a weeknight under temperate conditions. It could be a race among the city’s fast couriers, or a family-friendly cruise stopping at a few local groceries.

“From the get go in St. Louis we pushed off the race idea of this event,” said Patrick Van Der Tuin, executive director of the nonprofit organization St. Louis Bicycle Works, which hosts the event. “We simply hold a ride. It allows us to engage more people and bring in more food.” Nearly 800 people came out to the city’s 7th Cranksgiving, bringing in more than 8000 food items. “We filled a 26-foot box truck to the brim,” Van Der Tuin said, adding that the piles of food put smiles on everyone’s faces.

Whatever the format, the key ingredients are bikes, a local charity to receive donations, and no registration charge to participate. “As long as they are doing it on bikes and donating to a charity then they are more than welcome to use the Cranksgiving name,” Tone said.

It’s up to the cyclists to choose how much they spend buying food to donate. Typically the minimum amount to collect the basic items is around $15. Often a list of bonus items will provide an opportunity to earn extra race points or contend for a “Most Generous” category.

“I really believe bikes can be good for social change, and charities are always something we can keep in mind,” said CJ Arayata, who began co-organizing Cranksgiving in Philidelphia in 2011, with Gary Wilpizeski. The pair began participating in the event in York, PA where Tone had brought the event after moving to the rural area with his wife. No longer attending school in York, Arayata and Wilpizeski were reluctant to make the drive to York, but still wanted to take part in the race.

“It seemed kind of puzzling to me that there wasn’t one in Philly and it’s already trickled to Nowheresville, Iowa,” Arayata said.

Hunger affects nearly 50 million people in the United States. City Harvest, which receives Cranksgiving donations in New York, helps feed more than one million New Yorkers annually. In Los Angeles, where more than 1.7 million Los Angeles county residents suffer from hunger, Cranksgiving benefits Para Los Niños, a nonprofit organization that serves more than 7000 low-income families a year through its network of education and wellness centers. The widespread success of charity bike races/rides like Cranksgiving is a way in which cyclists have been able to help alleviate hunger within their own communities.

“You’re actually helping out other people, you know, it’s not just about you,” Lopez said. “Other alleycats, when you race, it’s about—you’re like ‘I’m gonna win!’ You’re just thinking about yourself. With Cranksgiving, you’re actually thinking about other people that you might not even ever meet. You might actually bump into them, but you have no idea that you helped them out. It’s not just for messengers, it’s for everybody.”

Cranksgiving events are listed by city at History, how-to information, and materials from the first eight years in New York can be found at